Executive Power Grab
<<< Senator Jeff Kruse’s e-newsletter — February 18, 2014 >>>
There are times when it is appropriate to step back and take a look at the bigger picture, and I feel a need to do so at this time. The issue I want to discuss is the authority of the executive branch. First I should tell you what triggered these thoughts, which have been keeping me awake at night.
California is suffering a drought. A couple of weeks ago it was reported that it was the worst drought in 500 years. My first thought was wondering how the media could report such a statement as unarguable fact, as I am pretty sure there was nobody taking rain measurements on the west coast in the year 1530. I will, however, leave the lack of fact checking and the lack of real investigative reporting by the media for another time.
Last week President Obama was in California and made the statement that he was going to spend one billion dollars to end global warming. First he needs to get his terminology right. Because the planet has been in a ten year cooling cycle it is now called “climate change”. But this is also an issue I will leave until another time. The issue is how he can make such a statement. The function of the Legislative Branch is to pass laws and decide what the money is spent on. The function of the Executive Branch is to enact the laws passed by the legislature. We are seeing this line being overstepped now on a regular basis. In fact President Obama actually said in his State of the Union address that if Congress didn’t pass the laws he wanted he would do it by executive order. This is a clear violation of the Constitution and is a growing problem.
Similar things are also happening in Oregon. Last week our Governor announced he was going to move ahead with his “clean fuels” program. Meanwhile, in the Legislature, we are questioning several of the programs already on the books; the unworkable carbons standards as an example. If you will remember, President Obama put hundreds of millions of dollars into such businesses owned by his “friends” with disastrous results. I think we are seeing the same thing happen here in Oregon. There are some people here in Oregon who are getting very rich in this alternative energy game. It will be interesting to see where their political contributions go. My favorite example is the wind farms. It takes energy to run them, even when they are not in a generation mode. However, the way the system is set up, they do not operate on their own power. They purchase power from the grid for operations at less than half of the price they sell the power into the grid for. We all pay the price for this through increased energy costs. The reality is none of the alternative energy projects are economically viable without government subsidies.
But the main issue here is the Governor saying he is going to go ahead with his plans with or without Legislative approval, much the same way the President is doing on the national level. In 2009, when the Democrats had supermajorities in both Chambers, they created the Oregon Health Authority. They also gave them powers outside of legislative control. One of the results of that move is Cover Oregon. In 2011, even with a split House, they were able to turn total control of the education system over to the Governor. Now, in 2014 we find the Governor attempting to take even more control by executive order.
Having one party in total control of the political system is not necessarily in the best interests of the people. A good example would be the many boards and commissions Oregon has. While the Democrats have controlled the Governor’s office for over thirty years, there was a time in the last decade when the Republicans had the majority in the Senate. Because most of these appointments require Senate confirmation what we found was there tended to be a balance in the appointments. As it is now the Governor basically gets whoever he wants and generally only appoints people who will agree with him. The system works best when there are checks and balances, and we have lost that. There are actually some Democrats who will privately agree with this assessment, but publically will not go against the Governor.
If you are one who thinks we are better off with the government controlling all things, you will find this assessment encouraging. For me, I find it very troubling. We are seeing a continual loss of local control and the “one size fits all” approach just doesn’t work.
There are 9 bills up for hearings today in the committees I sit on and an additional 8 bills up for a vote on the Senate floor. While it is very important, short term, to focus on the details of these bills, I suggest we can’t afford to lose sight of the big picture.
Senator Jeff Kruse